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October 21, 2021

Moreno Valley City Council Ignores Brown Act

Due to a vacancy in the Moreno Valley City Council, city staff put the usual item on the city council agenda seeking a decision as to whether the council wanted to appoint a replacement or submit it to the voters. Instead, the two councilmembers decided to bull ahead and appoint a replacement immediately. The two councilmembers tried to rationalize this in a back and forth with their city attorney, Steve Quintanilla, but it was like arguing with Trumpsters. "We're stupid and there is no rule saying we can't be stupid." The linked article includes video from the meeting. It appears to me that in addition to going off-agenda, they didn't even take a formal vote on this item. Maybe there is a provision in Robert's Rules (I'm sure it's not in Rosenberg's) saying that if the body is down to only two members and one of them seconds the motion made by the other, it's automatically a unanimous yes vote without having to vote. Maybe that's a rule, but it seems weird.

The justification from the sitting councilmembers seemed to be that they are in a panic and a hurry to repopulate the council. To have made this legal all they needed to do was tell staff to put an item on the next agenda to immediately appoint a replacement — and that next meeting could have been only a few days hence.

Filed under California,Politics | permalink | October 21, 2021 at 08:58 AM | Comments (2)

October 20, 2021

On The Road To Transnistria

A week ago I had never heard of Transnistria, but now it's come up twice. Is this some kind of meme? Anyway, here's a nice, not cheezy video of a pair of not-ugly Americans visiting the land of Transnistria.

Th first time it came up was when I saw this video about unrecognized countries around the world.

| permalink | October 20, 2021 at 08:53 PM | Comments (0)

Clark County Okays Tesla Tunnels For Las Vegas Strip

Clark county, Nevada, Commissioners, approved a 50-year franchise agreement with Boring Company to build an underground Tesla taxi system. "Boring’s plan calls for a mostly underground system operating mainly in the Resort Corridor with stations at various resorts and connections to Allegiant Stadium and UNLV." The airport, too? The article doesn't mention access to the airport. Maybe that would require renegotiating contracts with some unions and businesses first.

The best news about this tunnel plan is that the taxpayers are not paying for it. Boring Company will foot the bill. Hotels and resorts along the route that want to connect to the system will pay. Also, of course, passengers in the system will pay. Ultimately, fifty-one stations are planned. Boring Company must also get a similar agreement from the City of Las Vegas for the part of the route within city limits.

To make this succeed they are going to have to get it used in an adventure movie chase scene; a classy high budget film, like a Bond movie.

Filed under Technology | permalink | October 20, 2021 at 08:20 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2021

Riverside County Redistricting

An article in the Press-Enterprise about redrawing the Supervisorial districts in Riverside County. "Assembly members Sabrina Cervantes and Jose Medina, both D-Riverside, and Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella — issued a joint statement Oct. 4 accusing the maps of being 'drawn with a clear intent to protect certain incumbent supervisors and dilute the influence of Latino voters.'" The American Civil Liberties Union and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund said the maps violated the law because they "failed to include Citizen Voting Age Population data."

County officials defended the original four maps, saying they created four majority minority districts.

“For Riverside County, that’s very good that we have four that are Latino,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said at the board’s Oct. 5 meeting. “So when (critics) were saying that we were taking away the opportunity for Latino (representation), I’m not understanding. Hopefully, they’ll make contact with us to share a little more of what they’re looking for.”

[Supervisor Manuel] Perez said via email: “I think it’s pretty clear that the first round of maps produced did not conform with existing federal and state laws.”
The county’s original maps should have included citizen-age voting data, which was available when they were drawn and is the preferred metric of the courts when analyzing redistricting, said Evan McLaughlin, vice president of Redistricting Partners, a Sacramento-based firm that works with Democrats.

“It was a red flag” that the population tables used with the draft maps did not include citizen-age voting numbers, McLaughlin said. “It behooves (the county) to go and determine whether it’s possible to draw a map where there’s majority minority districts where (the number of voting-eligible residents) exceeds 50%.

The Board of Supervisors meeting tonight will address this topic. Redistricting info is here.

But let's see for ourselves what the proposed maps show. The proposed maps are here. There are seven (A through G) proposed by the county and three (1 through 3) proposed by citizens. Only citizen map 1 has demographic data. The other two have none, so I'm going to ignore those. All the other maps have a TON of data which I have sifted through to provide the tables below. These percentages use citizen voting age population data only. I did only two tables, one for Hispanic and one for non-Hispanic White. I bolded any figure that is 50% or higher. Countywide, Hispanics constitute 39.3% of the citizen voting age population; non-Hispanic Whites constitute 44.5%. I suppose in an ideal world, you'd want two districts with a Hispanic citizen voting age majority and two districts with a non-Hispanic White citizen voting age majority, but there are factors other than race to take into account, so that ideal goal is probably impossible to achieve.

CVAP Hispanic percentage 39.3% countywide * an asterisk indicates a district that includes DHS
District 146.7%47.0%46.6%46.7%50.1%57.8%56.1%51.0%
District 242.1%36.4%38.3%42.1%39.0%43.7%44.1%31.0%
District 327.3%32.4%29.4%27.2%26.8%32.0%32.1%51.2%
District 438.3%*38.3%*38.3%*38.4%*39.0%*46.6%*45.7%*27.4%
District 542.7%39.3%44.4%42.7%42.4%48.3%50.1%38.4%*

CVAP White, non-Hispanic percentage 44.5% countywide * an asterisk indicates a district that includes DHS
District 136.3%31.6%36.6%36.3%28.2%27.3%24.6%32.1%
District 239.4%44.5%42.9%39.4%37.5%38.3%37.6%51.7%
District 355.6%49.3%53.9%55.7%51.2%50.9%50.7%27.1%
District 453.8%*53.8%*53.8%*53.6%*44.7%*44.5%*46.1%*55.2%
District 536.7%43.2%34.6%36.6%31.7%32.0%34.5%53.4%*

You can see that only maps G and 1 create two Hispanic citizen voting age majority districts. Maps A, C and D create two non-Hispanic White citizen voting age majority districts. Map 1 creates three non-Hispanic White citizen voting age majority districts in addition to the two Hispanic citizen voting age majority districts.

Filed under California | permalink | October 19, 2021 at 05:26 PM | Comments (0)

Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone Gets Real

Chatter Telephone with Bluetooth
For $60 at Best Buy you can get this Fisher-Price Chatter telephone that actually works
. "Actually works" in the sense that it will connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone and you can use the rotary dial to make real phone calls and use the handset to talk and listen to a real person on the other end of the line. You can switch it into speakerphone mode, too. It comes with a rechargeable battery, but there's no word on battery life or whether the battery is replaceable.

Filed under Shopping,Technology | permalink | October 19, 2021 at 01:13 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2021

America's Top Colleges (According To Forbes)

For the first time, a public school, UC Berkeley, took the number one spot on the list. Yale is #2. MIT and Harvard are #6 and #7, respectively. The next public school on the list after Berkeley is UCLA at #8. The next public school is UC San Diego at #15. Next is UC Davis at #20. The first non-California public school on the list is Michigan, Ann Arbor at #22.

Wellesley is #32. Tufts is #38. Boston College is #56. Northeastern is #76. Babson is #81. Boston University is #83. Brandeis is #128. Bentley is #139.

Filed under California | permalink | October 17, 2021 at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)


The mother cat started showing up around my house a little more than a year ago as a kitten. I never fed, petted or otherwise encouraged her to stay around, but I also didn't chase her away. At some point my neighbor began to feed her, but she still liked to hang out in my yard (and kill birds) a lot. She has gone into heat at least two or three times, bringing the loose male cats to my yard. But this is her first litter. I had no idea she was pregnant. Yesterday morning I heard plaintive, squeaky meowing and followed it to its source. The mother had hauled her two kittens to a sheltered spot by my A/C unit and left them there while she ate food over at the neighbor's. Today I set up a motion-activated security camera pointing at this spot and got several videos, but this is the only close up of a kitten so far. At night she returns them to her hidey-place under a trailer in my backyard which is where I'm sure she gave birth.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | October 17, 2021 at 06:53 PM | Comments (3)

Lucy Visiting The Trojans

Yesterday NASA launched Lucy, a robotic explorer that will travel to the Trojans, arriving in 2027. This gives you about five years to refresh your knowledge of Lagrange points (every pair of bodies orbiting each other has five of them) and Trojans (two of the Lagrange points). When astronomers refer to The Trojans, they mean the ones at Jupiter because those are the most numerous and were the first to be identified.

Lucy will visit the "Greek camp" first (2027-28), then visit the "Trojan camp" in 2033.

Filed under Science | permalink | October 17, 2021 at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

Prisoner Firefighters

An interesting, well written account of why California prisoners prefer fighting wildfires to sitting in prison cells.

Sending us to fight fires was abusive. We preferred it to staying in prison.

By Matthew Hahn
Matthew Hahn is a union electrician and meditation teacher who writes about his time in prison and issues related to criminal justice. He lives in San Jose, Calif., with his wife and two cats.
October 15, 2021 at 6:55 a.m. EDT

On the perimeter of the smoldering ruins of Lassen National Forest in Northern California this summer, an orange-clad crew of wildland firefighters worked steadily to contain the Dixie Fire, the largest single wildfire in state history. Using rakes, axes and chain saws, they literally moved the landscape, cleaving burned from unburned to contain the flames. This work was dangerous, and they made just a few dollars per hour, working 24-hour shifts.

But it was better than being in prison.

I used to be one of the incarcerated people whom California employs to fight wildfires, and I was fortunate. During my nine years in prison for drug-related burglaries, ending in 2012, I never met a fellow prisoner who didn’t want to be in “fire camp,” as the program is known. Some dreamed of going but knew they would never be allowed to live in such a low-security facility. Others, like me, did everything in their capacity to ensure that they got there as soon as humanly possible. For the most part, this meant being savvy and lucky enough to stay out of trouble during the first few years of my incarceration.

Though the program is voluntary, some well-meaning people on social media and in activist circles like to compare fire camp to slavery. Every fire season, they draw attention to its resemblance to chain gangs of the past, its low wages and its exploitative nature. Some argue that incarcerated firefighters face insurmountable barriers to careers in that field after parole, though this has started to change in recent years. Others argue that the voluntary nature of fire camp is a ruse, that consent cannot be offered by the coerced.

There is some truth to these objections, but they ignore the reality of why people would want to risk life and limb for a state that is caging them: The conditions in California prisons are so terrible that fighting wildfires is a rational choice. It is probably the safest choice as well.

I’m from a long line of California ranchers. Now we flee fires all the time.

California prisons have, on average, three times the murder rate of the country overall and twice the rate of all American prisons. These figures don’t take into account the sheer number of physical assaults that occur behind prison walls. Prison feels like a dangerous place because it is. Whether it’s individual assaults or large-scale riots, the potential for violence is ever-present. Fire camp represents a reprieve from that risk.

Sure, people can die in fire camp as well — at least three convict-firefighters have died working to contain fires in California since 2017 — but the threat doesn’t weigh on the mind like the prospect of being murdered by a fellow prisoner. I will never forget the relief I felt the day I set foot in a fire camp in Los Angeles County, like an enormous burden had been lifted.

The experience was at times harrowing, as when my 12-man crew was called to fight the Jesusita Fire, which scorched nearly 9,000 acres and destroyed 80 homes in the Santa Barbara hills back in 2009. I distinctly remember our vehicle rounding an escarpment along the coast when the fire revealed itself, the plume rising and then disappearing into a cloud cover of its own making. Bright orange fingers of flame danced along the top of the mountains.

The fire had been moving in the patches of grass and brush between properties, so we zigzagged our way between homes, cutting down bushes, beating away flames and leaving a four-foot-wide dirt track in our wake. I was perpetually out of breath, a combination of exertion and poor air quality. My flame-resistant clothing was soaked with sweat, and I remember seeing steam rise from my pant leg when I got too close to the burning grass.

The fire had ignited one home’s deck and was slowly burning its way to the structure. We cut the deck off the house, saving the home. I often fantasize about the owners returning to see it still standing, unaware and probably unconcerned that an incarcerated fire crew had saved it. There was satisfaction in knowing that our work was as valuable as that of any other firefighter working the blaze and that the gratitude expressed toward first responders included us.

Prisons are getting Whiter. That’s one way mass incarceration might end.

There are other reasons for prisoners to choose fire camp if given the opportunity. They are often located in secluded natural settings, giving inmates the chance to live in an environment that doesn’t remotely resemble a prison. There are no walls, and sometimes there aren’t even fences. Gun towers are conspicuously absent, and the guards aren’t even armed.

Camps have good meals, more nutritious and higher-calorie than those served in the chow hall behind the walls. Hobby shops give the men and women of fire camp the opportunity to do woodworking, metalsmithing and painting.

Perhaps the greatest incentive is the work-time credits, allowing for earlier parole. Before I got to fire camp, my earliest possible release date was November 2013, yet I ended up paroling in February 2012.

It’s understandable that fire camps are seen as dicey ethical terrain. Yes, the decision to take part is largely made under duress, given the alternative. Yes, incarcerated firefighters are paid pennies for an invaluable task. And yes, it is difficult though not impossible for participants to become firefighters after leaving prison. Despite this, fire camps remain the most humane places to do time in the California prison system.

The risk of the slavery conversation is that it further endangers the fire camp program. Already, the state has closed some camps as it tries to reduce the incarcerated population and fewer eligible people remain in prison. There are now 1,600 incarcerated men and women scattered in 35 fire camps across the state. “We are in desperate need of these programs,” Brandon Dunham, a former U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management firefighter, said recently. “They need us and we need them.”

Private prisons aren’t uniquely heinous. All prisons are abusive.

If one is genuinely worried about slavery or the choiceless choice of incarcerated firefighters, consider the guy pushing a broom in his cell block making the equivalent of one Top Ramen noodle packet per day, just so he can have the privilege of making a collect call to his mother. Or think of the man scrubbing the streaks out of the guards’ toilets, making seven cents an hour, half of which goes to pay court fees and restitution, just so he can have those couple of hours outside his cage for the day.

I appreciate the collective efforts and concern on behalf of incarcerated firefighters. But they fail to take into account the hundreds of thousands of people in jails and prisons across America in conditions so terrible as to make fire camps seem like country clubs. Places where people are forced to choose between working for nothing and losing their humanity.

So, while we may have faced the heat of a wildfire for a few bucks a day, and we may have saved a few homes and been happy doing so, understand that we were rational actors. We wanted to be there, where some of our dignity was returned to us.

Filed under California | permalink | October 17, 2021 at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2021

Four In New York City

All in New York in July 2001; all Ektachrome.
Herald Square (1)
Herald Square

Empire State Building Base (1)
The base of the Empire State Building

Empire State Building (3)

Macy's - July 2001
Macy's at the corner of 34th Street and 6th Avenue

Filed under Architecture,Cities/Urbanism,Photography | permalink | October 16, 2021 at 07:00 PM | Comments (0)

Oat Shortages Coming

According to this WSJ article, oat futures are double what they were last year. The main causes are (1) a 13% reduction in the acreage planted this year and (2) dry weather.

“Supplies will be tight,” said Jack Scoville, a grains analyst with Chicago trading firm Price Futures Group in a note. “There will not be much in the way of high quality oats for consumers to buy in the coming year.”

Filed under Food and Drink | permalink | October 16, 2021 at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

F-150 Taillights

Taillights on new Ford F-150s include a 4-LED display to show how heavily loaded the pickup is. All four LEDs light up on a fully loaded F-150; if it's overloaded, the top LED flashes. So now when you pass an overloaded F-150 on the highway (or they pass you) and you ask yourself, "My, isn't that truck overloaded?" you will be able to confirm the fact by looking at the taillights.

Filed under Automotive | permalink | October 16, 2021 at 08:57 AM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2021

Nice Nutrition News

Reports of specific foods that are supposed to be beneficial to health are as common as dirt and contradict each other at least twice a day, so you might as well pick out the reports you like. Here's a nice one based on Iowa State University research and published in the Journal of ALzheimer's Disease:

Here are four of the most significant findings from the study:
  1. Cheese, by far, was shown to be the most protective food against age-related cognitive problems, even late into life;
  2. The daily consumption of alcohol, particularly red wine, was related to improvements in cognitive function;
  3. Weekly consumption of lamb, but not other red meats, was shown to improve long-term cognitive prowess; and
  4. Excessive consumption of salt is bad, but only individuals already at risk for Alzheimer’s disease may need to watch their intake to avoid cognitive problems over time.

IOW, you can't just drink red wine, you've got to eat cheese too. Or, better, take a trip to Greece.

Filed under Food and Drink,Health | permalink | October 15, 2021 at 08:56 PM | Comments (0)

USPS Initiates Check Cashing Pilot

The Post Office will cash checks up to $500 for a flat fee of $5.95 and put the proceeds on a gift card in four post offices in these locations: The Bronx, Washington DC, Falls Church VA and Baltimore.

| permalink | October 15, 2021 at 06:49 PM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2021

Bezos Dises Shatner

Filed under Science | permalink | October 14, 2021 at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

Video Inside Desert Hot Springs's Biggest Cultivation Facility

Video inside the San Jac marijuana cultivation facility in Desert Hot Springs. They say this is the largest such facility in DHS. The story is broken into four segments, so keep viewing to the end to see all of it. I'm impressed with the audio in this little documentary. Everywhere they go inside the facility there is overwhelming white noise from the ventilation system (640 tons of A/C we are told), yet the voices are always clear enough to be understandable. (The first 2½ minutes are just intro that you can skip).

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Marijuana | permalink | October 14, 2021 at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)

Police Shoot & Kill Fleeing Suspect At Indian And I-10

Very early this morning. Riverside County Sheriff's Office press release:


Deputy / Officer involved shooting occurs after Beaumont Police officers, Riverside Sheriff’s deputies and Palm Springs officers locate suspect who shot at a Banning Police officer during a traffic stop.

On Thursday, October 14, 2021 around 12:24 AM a Banning Police officer was shot at by a suspect during a traffic stop off State Highway 243 in Banning. During the shooting the gunfire struck the Banning Police vehicle and disabled it. The suspect fled the scene in an older model green wagon. Banning Police requested the assistance of surrounding law enforcement agencies. Beaumont Police officers responded to the area and located the shooting suspect driving eastbound on Interstate 10.

Beaumont Police Department officers attempted to stop the suspect who failed to yield. The suspect fled at a high rate of speed and a pursuit was initiated. Beaumont Police Department officers were joined by Riverside County Sheriff’s Department deputies as they pursued the suspect eastbound on Interstate 10 towards the Palm Springs area. The suspect shot several times at Beaumont Police officers who were behind him during the pursuit. Information was relayed to Palm Springs Police Department advising them of a pursuit of an armed suspect heading towards their jurisdiction.

Upon entering the Palm Springs area, the suspect exited on North Indian Canyon Drive where he ultimately stopped his vehicle on the offramp. At that time, a deputy / officer involved shooting occurred.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Special Enforcement Bureau and the Palm Springs Police used Armored Rescue Vehicles, to protect the law enforcement officers from the suspect who was still armed and barricaded inside his vehicle. Upon approaching the vehicle, the suspect was found deceased. The rifle used by the suspect was located inside the vehicle. The suspect’s identity will be withheld pending next of kin notification.

No deputies or officers were injured during this incident. There are no outstanding suspects and there is no threat to the public.

The following agencies were involved in the deputy / officer shooting: Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Beaumont Police Department and Palm Springs Police Department. The involved deputies and officers will be placed on administrative leave per their Department policy. The names of the involved deputies / officers will not be released at this time.

UPDATE 10/19/2021: "The suspect has been identified as Russell Leggett, a 30 year old resident of Idyllwild."

Filed under Coachella Valley,Public Safety | permalink | October 14, 2021 at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

Dutch Royals Can Marry Same-Sex Partners

When I first saw the headline Dutch Royals Can Marry Same-Sex Partners Without Risking Throne, Government Says I first thought that perhaps the Dutch monarch was also the leader of a (the?) church, as are the monarchs in some other countries. But my brief and shallow research into Dutch religion seems to indicate the church there is organized along democratic lines.

A Dutch royal couldn't marry a Roman Catholic until 1983 when the law was reformed to say simply that parliamentary approval was required for any royal marriage to be valid. So the question now boils down to 'Would parliament approve a royal same-sex marriage?'. And the response from the government is Yes, it would. That is all. It's just the Dutch dotting their i's and crossing their t's. They are cousins to the Germans, ya know.

[Prime Minister Mark] Rutte said the question of whether adopted children or children born from donated sperm or via a surrogate could be named legitimate heirs remained unresolved.

He said it wasn’t appropriate to consider the matter now, as “this depends too much on the facts and circumstances of the specific case.”

Filed under Gay Issues,Politics | permalink | October 14, 2021 at 08:06 AM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2021

Southern Culture Contribution

We can always look to our southern states for ideas on how to use sugar in novel ways.

DEAR HELOISE >> My grandkids love ice cream, so I usually keep some cones and ice cream on hand for when they visit. Unfortunately, they never seem to finish the cone until it’s leaking at the bottom.

The next thing I know, I’m washing everyone’s shirt. Finally, I started to place miniature marshmallows in the bottom of the cones, and no more leaky ice-cream cones!

— Colleen F., Bainbridge, Georgia

Filed under Food and Drink | permalink | October 13, 2021 at 09:58 AM | Comments (0)

Vulnerability of Kilters

Seen in Dear Abby today:

DEAR ABBY >> I married a proud Scotsman a year ago who often wears kilts.

When we go out, women think nothing of coming over and lifting his kilt, which exposes him to anyone who has a visual advantage. These women scream with glee and then become physically aggressive with their hands.

Frankly, I am shocked and horrified anyone would do this. The last time it happened a woman ripped his kilt off and the police became involved. Originally, the police were going to charge my husband with indecent exposure.

After several hours, it became clear that it was the woman who assaulted my husband. The police then kinda laughed it off. They didn’t plan on doing anything further. We were furious.

Why is there a double standard that women feel they can lift a man’s kilt to expose him and call it fun, yet the same women would scream sexual assault if a man lifted their skirt? Women need to understand that lifting a man’s kilt is sexual assault and should be treated as the crime it is. Now, every time a woman does it, we immediately call the police and report the crime.

The perpetrators are then shocked and angry that they are being arrested for a sex crime for something they thought was innocent fun and games. Your column reaches many readers. With your help, we can help women understand that doing this is unacceptable.

— Double Standard

DEAR DOUBLE >> It is no more acceptable to lift a man’s kilt “in the name of fun” than it would be to pull his trousers down. I hope any person reading this, who didn’t have the common sense to know better, will take note and respect the personal space of Scotsmen and ALL individuals. (It beats finding one’s name on a sex offender registry.)

First, I want to know where is this weird land where people are flipping up men's kilts. Second, I want more context. Does her husband have very hairy legs? Did he let some lassie (of any gender) buy him a Guinness? If so, then it sounds like he was just asking for it. A lassie deserves something in return for their investment in stout and the husband could've just worn pants if he didn't want the attention. /s

| permalink | October 13, 2021 at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)